A high street store well-known for fast fashion, Zara is also rather famous for its slow-moving queues.

Personally, about three-quarters of my time in Zara is usually spent in the queue.

And I’m not sure whether it’s down to a lack of tills or incredibly laid-back staff, but it certainly makes for a frustrating experience.

You can imagine my interest in learning that the Spanish retailer is to introduce self-checkouts in stores.

That’s right. No longer reserved for supermarkets, fashion brands are beginning to realise the potential of using technology to improve the physical shopping experience.

But will it actually improve the customer experience

Here are a few reasons for and against putting this kind of technology in place. 

For: Greater efficiency and fewer abandoned shops

One of the main benefits of the self-service system is that it simply speeds up the checkout process. And as I previously mentioned, long-term fans of Zara will undoubtedly lap up this new efficiency.

We’re used to hearing how often consumers abandon their online shops – but just think how many people give up and leave a store after getting fed up with waiting.

With faster service having a positive impact on satisfaction, there’s no denying that it could lead to happier customers. 

Also, with more self-checkouts and fewer tills, it also might encourage consumers to actually buy in store rather online, safe in the knowledge that they will be able to get in and out much quicker.

Against: Frustrated shoppers

As the lack of interest in supermarket self-checkouts show, not everyone finds the service so convenient.

A surprising number of people still prefer traditional methods of checking out.

Frustration surrounding complex systems, glitches and a basic lack of confidence in using the technology means that some shoppers might be put off altogether.

Whether or not Zara’s core demographic will find the idea more appealing remains to be seen. 

For: Less-stretched staff

Another benefit of the self-checkout machine is that it will free up time for staff, allowing them to balance other responsibilities much more efficiently.

From assisting in changing rooms to sorting stock, consumers seem to forget the fact that working on the till is not the only part of the job.

By being able to utilise their time elsewhere, this is one aspect that could benefit both staff and customers alike.

Of course, another big benefit for Zara is that it might be able to reduce staffing costs as it needs fewer people working on the tills.

Against: Technology overload

It’s not only a resistance to the self-checkout that might prove to be an obstacle here – but a lack of interest in technology as a whole.

Alongside self-checkout systems, Zara is also reportedly to introduce other innovative features such as LED screens to allow shoppers to view products, and touch-screens in the dressing rooms to enable customers to request different items.

As exciting as this might sound, it is certainly not something that shoppers are used to.

In fact, my colleague Ben Davis has previously been critical of in-store tech, describing it as 'the screen in the corner that nobody wants to use'.

Consequently, making technology accessible, user-friendly, and appealing is going to the biggest challenge in future.

For: Enhanced customer experience

We're constantly being told than an engaging and interactive experience is the key to customer loyalty.

With self-service checkouts putting the control into the hands of shoppers, it is certainly one way to ramp up some level of involvement.

Though it is still far removed from the world of virtual reality, Zara's new venture could spell the start of retail brands bringing more technology into stores.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 21 June, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (4)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

How does self-checkout even work for fashion goods? When I'm buying fashion clothes (or more often watching my wife buy them) a large part of the purchase time is taken with packing the goods neatly in the shop's branded bags or boxes. This seems a skilled task, so how will customers do it for themselves?

Also it's not very long since Zara was making a big thing about its security tags - see link. If customers can do self-checkout now, this suggests security tags are not in use, so does that mean the initiative was a failure?

about 2 years ago


Llara Geddes, UX Consultant at St Ives Group

I applaud their willingness to investigate ways to improve their experience. Their queues are awful and I've walked out on seeing them more than once. Whether they actually help or just result in more frustration (queues there when people or tech fail, security tag issues etc) with less staff available to help remains to be seen...

about 2 years ago


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd

Pete is spot on, with the packaging thing.
One wonders if Zara's move is more about wanting to invest less in staff / save staff costs: which may not bode well for their longer term in-store user-experience?

PS: if there are any readers here familiar with German retailing: I was told that all store staff there are highly trained: in comparison to the UK where training is often minimal: is that a correct comparison?

about 2 years ago


Alejandro Gracia, PMP at Imagicvision

You can find more information (in spanish) in our web page, but if you wish to ask any question I will be happy to help. I was part of the team and the develop has not ended.
Regards, Alex.

about 2 years ago

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